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Sarali varisai part1

Discussion in 'Carnatic and Hindustani tutorials' started by Jimsweb, Jan 24, 2010.

  1. Jimsweb

    Jimsweb Super Moderator

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    Raga: Mayamalavagowla (15th Melakartha Ragam)
    Arohana: S R1 G3 M1 P D1 N3 S
    Avarohana: S N3 D1 P M1 G3 R1 S
    Talam: Adi

    Notes from Chitra Veena Ravi Kiran's book (with some additions):
    Getting Started: Sustaining Notes - KARVAI

    The first step is to have a tanpura or shruti box, which will provide the basic note "Sa" and the fifth note from it, which is "Paa". You can seek your guru's help in determining your ideal pitch, which enables you to traverse at least two octaves (from Paa in the lower octave to Paa in the higher octave) comfortable over a period of time. It is equally vital to learn to tune either of these instruments from one's master. Then listen to it carefully and try to register the notes (sa - pa - sa) in your mind.

    Then try to sing these two constant notes tunefully, making an effort to understand the relationship between the frequencies that "Sa" and "Pa" are sung at. Subsequently, the teacher will introduce the rest of the notes, and here again, you should try to make yourself aware of where (in terms of frequency) they are, with respect to "Sa". Singing in tune is the primary source of joy.

    Now the teacher can introduce a raga, say Mayamalavagowla, for the basic exercises. Mayamalavagowla is the 15th melakartha with the notes: S R1 G3 M1 P D1 N3 S.

    Most teachers prefer to use this raga because it has different intervals. Once the student achieves sufficient command over these exercises, the same can be attempted in other melakartha ragas.

    One should now try to hold every one of these notes tunefully as long as possible. This sustenance of a note is called "kaarvai." Attention should be give to singing in tune, holding one's breath and releasing it with a good tone. This exercise is a must, before the sarali or other varishais are taught. This should be done without tala initially, until the students learn to sing or play the notes perfectly. Karvais are used at all levels in Carnatic music and they can create a very soulful, tranquil and evocative atmosphere. At the very fundamental level, they build a scientific approach to the rest of the music that students will subsequently be introduced to. An artiste must be able to hold any note steadily and tunefully for at least 10-15 seconds and gradually increase this to a minute.

    Additional notes: What are the sruti aspects we would like to learn from sarali swaras? I will use the word "sruti" to refer to a note or a tone or a frequency (eg: expressed in swara form as "sa", "ri", "ga", "ma", "pa", "dha", "ni") and its relation to a base frequency (eg: "sa" as expressed by the background tambura or sruti box). When a learner listens to or sings the syllable "sa", what should he/she look for?

    First, since our music is expressed with respect to an arbitrarily chosen sruti note (eg: the tambura or sruti box), the student should first LISTEN to the tambura or sruti box, close ones eyes and try to "feel" the music of the note to get a rough visual idea of where the note "sa" is (i.e. an understanding of where "sa" is absolutely located in the "space" of musical frequencies). You can outwardly express this understanding by indicating a level with your hands.

    This understanding is important because, once you listen to some other note (expressed simply as "aaaaa", i.e. as akaaram), you should be able to say whether that note is higher than "sa" or lower than "sa" (i.e. a relative understanding of notes relative to "sa"). You can outwardly express this relative understanding by raising or lowering your hand relative to the original level for "sa."

    The next step is to go deeper, and ask, "how much is the note higher or lower than sa"? You can raise or lower your hand proportionately to reflect your understanding. Once you do this, you can replace the original sa with another note as the reference and ask if another note is higher or lower than it, and by how much? I have some examples of this in the audio lesson.

    Getting a true and deep appreciation of note location on the frequency scale is a non-trivial task and must be revisited over the long-term. This knowledge is called "sruti jnana" or knowledge of sruti! By the way, in this process you have also learnt the basics of the hand-waving histrionics of several carnatic music vocal artistes!

    The next step is to go beyond listening and into singing. When musicians start, they first tune their voice to the sruti by singing saa-paa-saa. Lets start with "saa." What does is mean to sing "saa" correctly when there is no one (but yourself!) to tell you whether you are correct or wrong?

    The important point is that when you sing anything, you have to keenly LISTEN TO YOURSELF singing! This is easier said than done, because it is very hard to have your mind do a balancing act of BOTH the output (i.e. singing) and the input (listening). I have also observed that my ears tend to block a little when I am singing and makes this a little more harder. But this "feedback" is very important because then you can compare the feedback to the reference "saa" and as you practiced earlier, distinguish whether what you are CALLING "saa" is indeed the frequency of "saa" or if it is higher or lower! You can again do your act with the hand to judge whether the note you are singing is higher or lower than the reference. Once you have established this, you can try to correct your output online till you reach the correct level of "saa". I must say that I have found this step (the student able to recognize and correct the note sung to match saa) to be the biggest stumbling block among beginners.

    This step above is also an example of putting a few basic ideas together -- listening to a frequency, judging its relative position and singing it at the same time. If you cannot get this right, I would suggest decomposing this and doing each piece separately (i.e. divide-and-conquer: listen only, listen+judge, sing only, sing+listen, sing+listen+judge). You can skip some of these combinations if it comes naturally to you: you just need to be aware and able to do any one of these things on demand...

    The next step is to sharpen these pieces of understanding and pick up some related concepts:

    * Relative Positions: Try deliberately singing the syllable "sa", but sung at a higher or lower frequency than the tambura sruti. Can you do it?
    * Can you listen to yourself and judge where the syllable you are singing is relative to the reference? Can you start higher?
    * Can you make it come back to the correct frequency location without taking a new breath, and just sliding to the correct position? Do you know appreciate the difference between saying the word "saa" in some frequency vs singing it at the correct frequency?

    Musical Phrases: Gradually simple combinations of notes can be tried. Teachers can introduce small musical phrases like GM , - GMP, - DDP, - PMG, - MGR, - GMGRS- and so on. Over a few sessions, the phrases can get perceptibly sophisticated.

    Akaaram: After a few such sessions, the same phrases can be rendered using the vowel "a" as in "America". This is called "akaaram" and it is a very integral part of Carnatic music, with particular reference to vocal music. Thus, exposure to akarams is very essential at this stage, albeit in a simple form.
  2. Ramya

    Ramya New Member

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    here are some additional exercise patterns:

    s r g m | p m | d p ||
    S n R S | S n | d p ||
    d n S R | S n | d p ||
    S n d p | m g | r s ||
  3. Jimsweb

    Jimsweb Super Moderator

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    Practical Exercises: Phase II:
    Varishais - Sequences:

    The great composer Purandara Dasa, hailed as the Father of Carnatic music, created a set of fundamental exercises nearly 500 years ago, which are followed even today.

    There are 4 main types of varishais.

    Sarali Varishais: These fundamental sequences enable the student to get a feel of melody with rhythm. The logic is quite obvious here. The 1st varishai is a plain ascent and descent of the notes of the raga. The 2nd varishai focuses on the second note from S, namely R (in the ascent) and N (in the descent). The 3rd varishai centers on the third note (G and D) in the ascent and descent respectively. The fourth varishai concentrates on the fourth note M and P. This goes on upto the 7th varishai. The last 3 are general exercises. Some books have split the last sarali varishai into 5 parts, but singing it as a single varishai is more instructive.

    Janta Varishais: These are forceful sequences, which facilitate the students to add weight and majesty to their voice. They make use of a form of ornamentation called "spuritham" which is rendering a note twice: plain the first time, and with force from the previous note (i.e. the note just below this note in frequency) in the raga the second time. Teachers must take care that the concept of sphuritham is very clearly embedded in the students' minds. The tendency to render it in a bland and insipid manner should be avoided.

    Melsthayi Varishais: These are higher octave sequences, which increase the students' vocal or instrumental range. Again, the logic is easy to understand. The first is the simplest asn every subsequent exercise adds a new phrase to the previous one. The progressively cover notes upto Pa in the higher octave.

    Dhatu Varishais: These are zigzag sequences that increase the students' overall command of notes.

    Alankarams: These are multi-tala sequences composed in the 35 talas. But usually 7 of these are selected and taught to the students.

    Students should be taught to render all these exercises in at least 3-4 speeds. Once they perfect this technique, they could practice most of them in the 3rd speed. It is ideal to render each varishai twice, once just with the swaras, and again, with akaaram.
  4. vishnu narayanan

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